By  //  November 24, 2012

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BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Four prep football teams from Brevard County remained alive entering Friday night in a quest for state championships.

Three of those teams played here in Brevard County, while Merritt Island traveled south to meet Glades Central in a showdown of Class 5A powers.

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BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – A seemingly impossible Heritage comeback fell one agonizing yard short as time ran out and the Panthers fell to cross-town rival Palm Bay 21-14 Friday on the Pirates’ home field.

Jordan Booth (8) of the Palm Bay Pirates tries to block the punt by kicker Melvin Boldt of the Heritage Panthers during a prep football Class 6A regional semifinal playoff game at Palm Bay High Stadium on Friday Nov. 23. (Image by Brian Curl)

The final play started with 0.3 seconds on the clock and Heritage quarterback Clinton Moxam hitting Terrance Spivey with a pass around the Pirate 30 yard line, but he was left with many defenders to beat because Palm Bay was playing so deep. But Spivey calmly threw a long lateral across the field to Tyris Wooten, who had a blocker and some open field ahead of him.

However, Pirate junior Josh Best just barely had the angle on him and managed to knock Wooten out of bounds at the one to end the game and break the hearts of the Panthers, whose season ends with an 11-2 record — and both losses came at the hands of Palm Bay.

For veteran Pirate coach Dan Burke, the breath-taking ending was just one more straw in a season “that can age a coach a lot.”

Referring to games where his team held leads and then lost them before the contest was over, he said, “You know what, that last play kinda told the story of our season, only this time it came out good for us.”

Burke’s Pirates move to 8-4 on the year but more importantly advance to next Friday’s regional championship game at home.

Caleb Alves caught a 7-yard TD pass from Brian Fallace to extend Palm Bay’s lead to 14-0 in the second quarter against Heritage on Friday night. (Image by Ed Pierce)

TD reception

Palm Bay, who squeaked past the Panthers 7-6 in their regular season encounter, looked like they had control of the game from the start after Darylton Hill scored on a 57-yard return of a blocked punt and Brian Fallace hit Caleb Alves on a 7-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.

The Pirates, whose first extra point attempt failed, made up for it with a Leroy Berry 2-point conversion run that made the score 14-0 after the first stanza.

A Shane Jones fumble recovery at the Palm Bay 35 led to a Heritage score late in the half.  Moxam finished the drive with an 8-yard scoring toss to Auston Wolfe with 2:35 in the half. Pirate Brandon Moon then came through to block the important extra point, however, to leave the score 14-6.

The second half was a story of penalties that frustrated both sides.

A spectacular diving catch by Pirate Caleb Alves at the Heritage 10 yard line on the first possession of the half cannot go unnoted, but Palm Bay turned the ball over on downs after a succession of penalties on both clubs.

The Pirates seemed to put the game away with 5:34 left to play on a 5-yard touchdown run by the determined Berry – who was kept mostly in check by a Panther defense keyed on him.

Josh Gaines of the Heritage Panthers runs around the right end during a prep football Class 6A regional semifinal playoff game against the Palm Bay Pirates at Palm Bay High Stadium on Friday Nov. 23. (Image by Brian Curl)

New life

A great catch by Wolfe at the Pirate 17 yard line keyed Heritage’s next drive, which was helped by a fourth-down offside penalty against Palm Bay and ended with a 1-yard Moxam keeper for the score.

Josh Gaines ran in the two-point conversion to make it 21-14 with only 2:07 remaining in the game.

The game looked surely over when the Panthers’ ensuing onside kick off attempt went out of bounds and gave the Pirates the ball at their own 41.

Heritage forced a punt in three plays, however, and took over on their own 19.

Desperation third- and fourth-down passes to Gaines and Tevin Hudson kept the drive alive, but all looked lost – again – when  the Panthers found themselves at their own 46 with 0.3 seconds to play.

Heritage came up with the almost-perfect play at the end, but the “almost” part left them one yard short and Palm Bay one game closer to a championship.

– Robert Hughes





BELLE GLADES, FLORIDA – Speed and an inability to stop the run doomed Merritt Island’s chances of advancing in the Class 5A regional semifinals against Glades Central High School on Friday night.

Glades exhibited a powerful running game which took precious time off the clock and controlled huge chunks of the game.

David Bailey and Will Likely each scored two touchdowns for Glades Central, which beat Merritt Island for the second straight year in the 5A regional semifinals.

Likely’s 50-yard reception was the third TD of the night for Glades and put the game out of reach for the Mustangs.

Taquan Kelly’s 41-yard touchdown run narrowed Glades’ lead, but it was the most consistent offense Merritt Island could muster all night long.

The Mustangs finished the season at 10-2 with one of the youngest squads ever for coach Jeff McLean in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.

 – Larry Brooks




• COCOA 35, JONES 7 

BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA – Cocoa didn’t need the help. The Tigers had scored two touchdowns on their first two possesions to start the game, forging a 14-0 advantage with 5 minutes, 20 seconds to play in the first quarter.

Jones just made it easier as two crucial turnovers with less than 3 minutes to play in the first half led to two more Cocoa touchdowns and a 28-0 halftime lead. The Cocoa Tigers went on to smother the Jones Tigers 35-7 Friday in the second round of the Class 4A state football playoffs.

Cocoa’s Antwan Lee scored two touchdowns Friday night to help Cocoa defeat Jones 35-7 in the Class 4A regional final at Cocoa High School. (Image by Friday Night Locker Room)

After Cocoa was assessed a 5-yard penalty for moving before the snap on fourth-down-and-inches from the Jones 43-yard-line, Cocoa decided to punt from the Jones 48. Tyrian Taylor fumbled Tarean Folston’s 45-yard punt at the 3-yard line, and Cocoa’s Lane Burnett recovered the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown. Matt Adams kicked the extra point to extend Cocoa’s lead to 21-0 with 2:50 to play in the second quarter.

Jujuan Young-Battle threw a strike over the middle to Ja-Quan Lumas for an 18-yard gain, T.J. Bryan powered up the middle for a 4-yard gain and Emmanuel Williams caught a deflected pass by Young-Battle on the left side for an 18-yard gain to cap a three-play sequence where Jones moved from its own 43 to the Cocoa 17.

Jones, which was penalized 16 times for 132 yards, was called for an illegal shift on first down for a 5-yard penalty. Young-Battle’s pass on the ensuing play was batted down at the 5-yard line. Jones then was penalized 5 yards on a delay-of-game penalty, and a heavy rush by Tavares Parks forced another incomplete pass by Young-Battle.

Young-Battle’s third-down pass was intercepted by Antwan Lee at the Cocoa 5, and Lee shrewdly flipped the ball to Folston before he would have been tackled. Folston sprinted to the left, broke a potential tackle at the Cocoa 35 and continued down the sideline for a 95-yard touchdown. Adams kicked the PAT to give Cocoa a 28-0 lead with 28 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

“I was impressed by Cocoa’s execution and poise,” Jones coach Kenard Lang said. “They didn’t make any mental mistakes. We put ourselves in a hole. It’s playoff time and you’ll see the great teams capitalize on mistakes like that. It just snowballed for us and cemented the game for Cocoa.”

Tarean Folston of Cocoa scored tow more touchdowns as Cocoa Beat Jones 35-7 on Friday night in the Class 4A regional final. (Image courtesy Friday Night Locker Room)

Cocoa will host Booker T. Washington of Miami (11-1) next Friday in the third round of the state playoffs. The Class 4A field has been whittled to four teams. Yulee (9-3) will host Jacksonville Bolles (11-1) in the other Class 4A semifinal game. Teams in Class 4A and smaller have to win four games to earn a state title. Teams in Class 5A and higher have to win five games.

“I was surprised by the turnovers we made,” said Lang, an Orlando native who played in the NFL for the Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns and the Denver Broncos after starring for the University of Miami. “That pick that was brought back and the fumble on the punt return — that’s 14 points. You take that 14 points away and it would have been 14-7. We made mistakes, and we have to take our hats off to Cocoa. They’ve been a state championship team, and they’ve got a great coach.”

Cocoa edged Jones 31-24 on Oct. 19 to win the Class 4A, District 5 title.

“We made some adjustments for this game,” Cocoa coach John Wilkinson said. “They had nearly 500 yards of total offense and we couldn’t slow them down in that first game. This time, we had a better game plan. Our defensive coaches did a fantastic job.”

Cocoa ran the ball effectively to keep its defense rested and off the field. Folston gained 152 yards on 22 carries, and Lee rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. Lorrenzo Pratt added 40 yards and one touchdown on eight carries. Cocoa rushed for 286 yards on 54 carries. The team did not attempt a single pass.

“We jumped up on them, and we didn’t have to throw the ball,” Wilkinson said. “We just kept getting first downs and played like we should on both offense and defense.”

Lee’s kickoff return to open the game, where he fielded the ball at the Cocoa 15 and burst through the middle 45 yards to the Jones 40 set up Cocoa’s first touchdown.

Folston ran to the right for 10 yards, Lee ran to the right for 9 yards and Pratt powered up the middle 6 yards to the Jones 15 for a first down. Folston ran to the right for 9 yards, and Lee ran to the right for a 6-yard touchdown with 10:13 to play in the first quarter. Adams kicked the first of his four successful PATs.

Cocoa held Jones to one first down and took over at its own 18 after a 35-yard punt by Kermit Whitfield. Folston ran 12 yards to the right on first down and Jones was assessed a 15-yard penalty for a horse-collar tackle on Folston as he was falling out of bounds. Folston then ran to the right for an 18-yard gain to the Jones 37.

Lee ran to the right for 7 yards and, after a 5-yard penalty against Cocoa, he followed that with a 5-yard gain on still yet another run to the right. After Pratt was stopped for a 1-yard gain, Jones was drawn offsides on fourth down.

Folston ran 4 yards to the right on first down, and Jones was called for a facemask penalty as the ball moved to the Jones 10. Folston ran to the right for 5 yards, and Lee scored his second touchdown of the night on a 5-yard scoring run to the right as Rakeem Murray cleared the way with a hard-nosed block. Adams converted the PAT with 5:20 to play in the first quarter.

Cocoa won its 10th consecutive game to improve to 10-2. Jones fell to 7-5.

“We really brought the rush with four-down linemen,” Parks said. “We were able to bring the pressure on their quarterback, and that gave our defensive backs a chance to pick it off.”

Young-Battle completed each of his five passes for 48 yards — all to Taylor — during a 17-play, 65-yard drive to open the second half. Young-Battle threw a 7-yard scoring strike to Taylor in the center of the end zone with 5:58 to play in the third quarter. Jamesly Louis kicked the extra point to trim Cocoa’s lead to 28-7.

T.J. Bryan, who led Jones with 124 yards rushing on 20 carries, carried the ball seven times for 29 yards during the scoring drive. But, the impressive drive whittled 6:02 off the clock.

“Our kids kept fighting,” Lang said. “Not one time did one person quit. We kept trying to score.”

Folston ran for a 21-yard gain to the Jones 44 on the final play of the third quarter. Three plays later, after Jones jumped offsides once again on fourth down to give Cocoa a first down, Folston ran to the left for 18 yards to the Jones 15.

Lee ran to the left for 4 yards on first down, and Pratt followed that with an 11-yard scoring burst up the middle with 8:25 to play in the game. Adams kicked the PAT to make it 35-7.

Young-Battle completed 10 of 23 passes for 97 yards and one touchdown. He was intercepted once and pressured all night.

 – Jeff Navin